Being “the baby” in a family of 7 siblings, spanning 14 years, I grew up surrounded by music. Pretty much any song from the 60s & 70s connects to a family memory. Tonight it was a song from a bit later, Marc Cohn’s Walkin’ In Memphis. When I hear Marc Cohn, I think of riding with my brother John in his car, with him playing Silver Thunderbird. “Don’t you give me no Buick …”
One of my proudest moments as a father was when I was riding my youngest son and The Grass Roots’ Heaven Knows came on. This was a sibling favorite that always puts a smile on my face from the first note. But this time was extra special, because my son was singing along … every single lyric. I had to pull to the shoulder so that I could text my siblings a “clearly I raised my son right …” text.
These are the unhelpful truths you mutter to yourself — or to your co-riders if they’re so (un)lucky — when you’re in need of a distraction during an extra dose of work on the bike. I have a brain full of them, ready to not help at a moment’s notice.
This was a common theme in my recent visits with my siblings who I hadn’t seen in over a year and a half. There was so much to catch up on, that we commonly were all sitting around talking until we started falling asleep in our chairs and couches.
It is soooo good to sit together and just talk until we drop.
The riders I meet five miles outside of town are not the same riders I meet fifty miles outside of town. Five miles out, we wave and exchange hellos. Fifty miles out, one rider turns around to join the other.
I wrote this in 2012. In 2014, it actually happened. It was day three of my ride from Richmond to Virginia Tech (RIC to VT, day 3 | Ride | Strava), riding along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I passed another cyclist also carrying panniers and we waved and nodded, but kept pedaling past. I kept kicking myself for not turning around. Ten miles later, a pannier-less rider approached. We waved and he turned around, saying, “Looks like your in for a long haul.” He rode along with me for several miles and we exchanged stories. Eventually he said he had to get home. We said our goodbyes and he turned and rode off. It was a wonderful meeting, and it made me regret it even more that I hadn’t done the same for the earlier rider.
I was given a second chance on my 2019 East Coast retreat. It was day two of my ride from Charlotte, NC to Harrisburg, PA (NC to PA, Day 2: Greensboro, NC to Lynchburg, VA | Ride | Strava), about 80miles into a 120mile ride. On an open road cutting farmland, a biker approached. We waved and then I turned around, asking, “You want some company for a bit?” He said “sure” and we rode along for a short bit. Then he said, “with your bags, you clearly need to be somewhere, so how about we turn around and head your way?” I happily obliged. As I told him about my planned route for getting into Lynchburg, he gave me several pro-tips about the roads ahead. Several miles later, he turned back to head in his original direction.
In both cases, after the ride I went to Strava Flybys to find them so I could reach out and thank them for the conversation. Unfortunately, in both cases, I came up empty.
If I turned to join a fellow rider five miles outside of town, I’m sure it would be deemed creepy. Fifty miles out, it felt natural.
Looking forward to more run-ins with “out there” riders.
A black cat crosses my path and I’m like, “Really? That’s all you’ve got?”
That’s a scribble that I came across that I haven’t been able to match up to the ride it was from. That’s because, with year-round riding comes the necessity to ride through some pretty unkind weather. So there are many rides to choose from. Here are two potential fits: That Which Does Not Kill Us… | Ride | Strava and Must Ride | Ride | Strava.
(Hey John, if you don’t know the answer to this, can you relay this question to your parents who I’m sure will?)
I’m pedaling down the Snoqualmie Valley Trail early on a Sunday morning. It’s beautiful. It’s remote. It’s quiet. Up ahead, I see several people just off of either side of trail, cameras in hand, looking out away from the trail and up at the trees.
I pedal by with greetings and cheer and volume. They are all turning to me to respond (a rapid run-up of my “Wave Streak”), in many cases with equal cheer.
Another quarter mile down the trail, it occurs to me I don’t know the etiquette here. Is bird watching like fishing where you want quiet and calm? Oh no, I think I was an a-hole!
It was spring of 1984. Pop had brought home a new car for the family, a baby blue Ford Escort. Being the handyman/mechanic/fixer-upper that he was, he wanted to see what he had to work with for the engine. I was coming out to see the car as Pop was lifting the hood. He propped the hood up and started taking it all in (it’s an Escort, so there’s not that much to take in, but compared to the Pinto that preceded this car in our family, this was definitely a step up). I never was very into engines, so I was more interested in what features were in the car. But given where Pop was standing, I figured it would be best to join him. Everything seemed routine about his demeanor until his eyes landed on the box sitting on top of the engine, with the letters E F I on it. This is when his expression changed to a look I hadn’t seen him make before. This piqued my interest so I started to pay more attention to the “mystery of metal” in front of me.
I can tell you now, after seeing that expression many more times since, that the name of this expression is something like “here we go” or “this is the beginning of the end.” It’s somewhere between frustration and disgust. He said, “EFI. Electronic Fuel Injection. You know what that means?” My knowledge of engines got me far enough to recognize the word “Fuel” in his statement. “No.” “That’s a computer that puts the right amount of fuel in the cylinders. I can replace spark plugs and belts. I can work an engine. But I can’t do anything with that.“
It was spring of 1989. I was out front of my collage apartment in Blacksburg. On the ground in front of my was my twelve speed bike, with the drivetrain completely disassembled. The chain, cassette, chain rings, derailleur, bottom bracket, and all the loose bearings were all laid out and drying, having just finished my cleaning process. It was no car engine, but for me it was a feat. I was proud of my understanding of the system and my ability to make it this far. And then I put everything back together and took the bike out for a test ride, where it purred.
It was spring of 2015. It was shortly after destroying my road bike (In a Blaze of Glory | Ride | Strava), and I was riding on my new Felt Z2. The rear derailleur stopped shifting, so I got off the bike to try to fix it. It was then that I remembered that model # that I had not paid much attention to when I was buying the bike: Shimano Di2. Di2 stands for “Digital Integrated Intelligence.” You know what that means?
I was out of luck. Nothing that a multi-tool could correct. Nothing that a piece of popsicle stick could hack. I was riding a two speed for the rest of the ride. I felt Pop’s expression appear on my face. And up in heaven he was giving that Di2 a knowing tsk tsk.
It was spring of 2021. After 14K miles with “generous shifting” of that Di2, on a short bike ride after dinner the derailleur stopped shifting, and started making a very sad sound that I can best describe as a “sad servo.” It sounds like it really wants to change gears, but has “fallen and it can’t get up.” So this weekend I tried to “fix the bike.” When I plugged the bike into the computer to get diagnostics from the derailleur, I was laughing at the thought of the juxtaposition of this image to the image of me in 1989. I went from being able to fix anything to being able to do nothing.
My next bike will be dropping the electronic shifters. And I will name that bike “Pop.”
You see a boy is circling around a street corner. His friends begin assembling, joining his circle as they talk. When the last friend shows up, they all take off. You see them riding all over, spending all of this time together. Cut to the next time circling and fewer people showing up, then flash to a kid at home playing an online game. Jump back to the circling kids, where one of them shrugs and then they all ride off. This cycle repeats, each time one kid dropping off, and each time flashing to them at home on a game. Finally there’s one kid left circling the corner with no one showing up. He rides home, where Dad is fixing his own bike up for a ride. He talks to Dad, clearly down. Dad gives him a hug. They sit down and talk and then kid walks off and Dad climbs on his bike.
You see Dad waiting at a corner. His friends show up and as the last one approaches, they all start to saddle up and ride off together. Cut to next week, when the group is waiting on the same corner for one more rider, then flash to that one rider at home on his zwift. Back to the group, who give a collective shrug and pedal off. Repeat this scene, with one rider dropping each week, and that rider showing instead on his zwift trainer at home. Finally, it’s just Dad at the corner. He starts circling around to kill the time and try to wait just a little long. No one is appearing.
Finally Dad hears wheels on pavement and is visibly lifted. Dad turns around to see which of his friends is approaching, and sees his son pedaling towards him with a smile on his face. Dad returns the smile. The boy comes alongside Dad and they ride off together.